Not many people know the story behind the square in Oudenaarde named Tacambaroplein.
It dates back to 1859 when the young Austrian aristocrat Maximilian was invited to become Emperor of Mexico. He cheerfully took up the offer and sailed off to Mexico in 1864. And his Belgian wife, Charlotte, daughter of King Leopold I, went with him, accompanied by Belgian volunteers sent to protect her.
The volunteers had assembled in Oudenaarde and trained in the local barracks before setting off to Mexico. Soon after they arrived, a revolt broke out, and the inexperienced young men were sent to defend Charlotte in the remote town of Tacambaro.
Facing an army of over 3,000 Mexican guerrillas, the 300 unlucky Belgians didn’t last long. Most were killed, including the son of the Belgian defence minister.
A monument in the middle of the Tacambaroplein called The Grieving Woman shows a woman holding a laurel wreath as she rests on a globe. ‘From her lonely elevated position she looks in the direction of Mexico, where Belgian volunteers went in 1864,’ a panel explains.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.